[MrPhysics Brew] BuG Servitude

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Hi all,

So Niche and Chu appear to have shown a lot of interest in BUG lists. These are pretty fun colors to play together. While I think their list is solid, I will claim (if for no other reason than to bring people to my thread) that mine is better Tongue Out (although theirs is a completely different deck type so isnt easily directly compared). Enjoy!



Ive tested a couple hundred matches with this deck, and played against basically every commonly played archetype multiple times. If there is interest, I will post a match-up and sideboarding guide, as well as an explanation of the strange card choices. 

 

 
Sure. What's the approximate win ratio? And how are the matchups?

Looks like I can build this one too, since I've got most of the cards. Any reason for playing the guildgates other than cost of shocklands/friendlands?
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golgari guildgate is due to the fact that the deck has strict color requirements (it wants BBB for servitude but GG for geist. We are maxed on G and B duals so we run a guildgate. Dimir guildgate is fetchable with gatecreeper vine. For a long time I had 2x gatecreeper vine in the list, its possible you can switch back to watery grave now that there is only 1 (and cut dimir guildgate). Also, due to deckbuilding constraints this deck has quite a weird curve. This means you will often go 2 drop, 2 drop + tapland, 2 2 drops. Even though there is only 1 vine, you can get it off salvage and instincts, so it adds a up to around 1.5 extra blue sources compared to if it was a shockland

The best matchup of 'winning decks' is likely aristocrats, at somewhere around 70%.

Blitz is typically slightly bad pre-board, at 40-45% game 1, but game 2 shoots up 2 and 3 are around 60% as we have troll, geist, snap, and 9x very cheap, versatile removal spells. 
 
Jund midrange is around 55% overall, with a solid game 1 percentage but gets slightly worse after boarding. Some jund midrange lists maindeck ground seal, which shuts off snap but does nothing to the main combo. slaughter games is more problematic but we have orb, duress, and brains postboard.   

Saito aggro/jund aggro is quite similar to blitz, but I feel like we have slightly better game 1 against them as they arent quite as explosive.

Human reanimator is a cointoss. We have blood artist which means comboing is annoying for them, as well as a miser maindeck deathrite. Postboard we have more deathrites and a cremate they wont see coming, and we can flash it back off snap. 

Esper control is favorable (55-60%?). Game 1 they dont have grave hate and can never tap out. Games 2 and 3 we have duress and rest in peace hurts them too. Side in a couple decay as well as golgari charm, which can also protect vs verdict.  

America Control is also slightly favorable, the deck does very well vs boros reckoner and they are fairly slow. They dont have too many counters. 

Junk Reanimator is a bad matchup: its hard to protect against craterhoof behemoth. angel of serenity can also be a pretty big beating. Unlike vs some control decks, we cant beat them without comboing typically. maindeck deathrite and golgari charm out of the side (to kill their souls/mana dorks) help but still this is like 40%.

Zombie hellrider aggro is also unfavorable. They have geralf's messenger, which is hard to deal with. Opposing blood artist and typically favor hellrider over aristocrat. This deck has much much more trouble with hellrider, but luckily most decks with a choice right now are running aristocrat
How do you win when you can't find an Immortal Servitude?
Have you considered White for Faiths Reward, making the deck similar to Eggs?
With only 4 Basics, is Carvan Vigil worth it? I understand Morbid being common but it seems lackluster.
How is your match up against counterspell decks like USA Flash and Esper?
If I dont find servitude then I can flash it back on 7 mana. I know that seems like an unrealistic goal, but you often grisly salvage for lands and it happens all the time, especially against control. The deck also functions as a resilient, if slow, aggro deck. Even without servitude the creatures synergize well, and winning without the combo is common.

I considered faith's reward. The problem is that there is a critical mass of 'do-nothing' type spells. Im not sure Id run more servitudes even if there werent a 4-card limit. Also, snapcaster is key to the deck, and 4 colors stretches the mana. You dont want to run too many shocks or youll lose to the aggro decks. If reward was black or green Id probably run 1-2 copies.

Vigil is the most recent addition to the deck. I recently went from 3 to 4 snapcaster mages, and cut instincts from 2 to 1. I cut a swamp for a vigil, so that I'd have enough instants/sorceries to support the snap. Think of vigil like a land that can be flashed back. Youll often have morbid in the midgame.

Ive found my matchup vs counterspell decks to be slightly favorable, as mentioned above. Esper wins by milling, and game 1 they thus cant let a single servitude resolve but we have 4 snap and 4 servitude. Postboard, we need to keep RiP off the table. Also, we can duress (+ flashback), and can side out slip. America control we likely leave in slip, but they dont have any great ways to kill us. We are resilient vs wrath and reckoner.

Now, take matchups % with a grain of salt. This is assuming a reasonably skilled opponent unfamiliar with the list, as you would typically find since no one would know this list since its mine. Also, the deck has constantly been changed so the percentages might be a bit off, and Ive only tested a couple hundred matches, so some matchups I may have only faced 10 or so times.
The deck looks like it has good potential, but would do poorly once your local meta understands the deck. This is something I noticed with Omnidoor Thragfire; when no one knew the deck, I would 2-0 easily, but once people had either played against it or seen it, they exploited glaring weak spots.
The deck looks like it has good potential, but would do poorly once your local meta understands the deck. This is something I noticed with Omnidoor Thragfire; when no one knew the deck, I would 2-0 easily, but once people had either played against it or seen it, they exploited glaring weak spots.



I somewhat agree. In an FNM situation, there may be a play skill gap such that players can side vs individual decks rather than a diverse metagame. If people see this deck and start siding 4x rest in peace this deck will suffer. Even so, you can take there RiP turn 1 and then have decay and charm to take out future copies. 

I see this deck somewhat similar to human reanimator. Human reanimator was a good deck with a couple poor matchups and a bunch of really really good matchups. It also gets worse over time as people adapt. Even so, a good human reanimator list is simply a good deck.

Im not claiming this deck is immune to hate, or that it wont get worse as people adapt, but I think the deck will still be 'solid' after that happens. Its non-combo gameplan is stronger than HumanRe (but weaker than JunkRe), while its combo element is weaker than HumanRe but stronger than JunkRe.

I think the deck itself is probably comparable to Human reanimator, but once people adapt I think its likely inferior to junk reanimator. That said, even 'good' players take some time to adapt to new decks
So... not too much interest. Do people not enjoy playing combo?
So... not too much interest. Do people not enjoy playing combo?



No, I definitely like it!

Do you feel that the 4 Grisly Salvage and 1 Tracker's Instincts are enough to fill up your graveyard fast enough? Mulch is also a consideration.
These decks make me sad I traded away my Hinterlands

I really don't have any suggestions. In testing, how many servitudes are you casting per game? 4-of seems like it could be one too many.

Also, I just did a mixed standard sealed last night, and played a lot of Undying Evil. Seems like a janky way to get two lands and a 1/3 out of a gatecreeper, or to get more mileage out of snapcaster or your draw elf.

I found Carmen Sandiego before you were born unless you're Zlehtnoba.

So... not too much interest. Do people not enjoy playing combo?



No, I definitely like it!

Do you feel that the 4 Grisly Salvage and 1 Tracker's Instincts are enough to fill up your graveyard fast enough? Mulch is also a consideration.



Thats a good question that took me a lot of testing to answer Wilsonia

The mulch vs tracker's instincts vs grisly salvage debate is an interesting one. At one point I had a build running 4 each. The problem is these cards are often very terrible vs the aggro decks. Also, when you bin an unburial rite you are up a full card, a tracker's instincts not so much. Furthermore, grisly salvage is the strongest of the self mill, as it digs deeper and can get creatures or lands. Thus, we want to max that first, and so if you want mulch to be able to hit flashback, you end up needing to run too many of these 'do nothing' cards. Also with only 20 lands getting 0 lands off mulch happens far too often, and for our deck that can be a big beating. 

tracker's instincts takes creatures, which makes it less likely to miss as we have more creatures than lands. Even if we do miss, we at least have the flashback. Also, with salvage we can mill these to generate card advantage. We also have lotleth troll, so taking creatures to hand rather than grave isnt such a big issue as we can discard them before using servitude. So, this card has a lot going for it. That said, its competing with cards like elvish visionary, which comes in a gives you CA right away, and works even better with the combo. 

5 'dig cards' is near the bare minimum, and Id prefer to have 6, but Im running a miser deathrite shaman in the maindeck right now due to the overwhelming appearance of reanimator. Salvage significantly boosts the power of servitude and snap, giving the deck a much stronger lategame.

EDIT: rstme, the list doesnt require a playset of hinterlands, only a 2-of!
On undying evil, after checking another thread I started to consider its applications in this list. Could very well be worth testing as a 1-of, its great with any of the 9 comes into play guys. Poor synergy with geist and troll worries me though.

4 servitude looks like a lot, but you can cast the first copy as an ordinary value card returning 2-3 guys, in which case its fine, and save the second one as a combo card. Drawing multiples vs aggro is often pretty bad, but the deck is constructed to have game against aggro in all the other cards it plays, and you can side down to 3 vs fast aggro in postboard games.

I played this in a 16 person single elimination tournament, losing in the finals.
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Match 1 vs aristocrats:
I took the first game on the back of a servitude. Next game shows we are a bit weak to lingering souls unless we are combo killing. The third match we both get slow draws but this deck has a much better lategame, and I win off a very mediocre servitude.
2-1
Match 2 vs GW Sublime Beatdown:
This deck was a token heavy build with champion of lambholt, champion of the parish, and sublime archangel. We are actually a bit weak to this type of plan, as it can kill quite quickly with evasive guys, and its best threat is 4 mana and cant be hit by abrupt decay. He made a bad block and ended up costing him. The next game he casts  champions of both types followed by 3 gather the townsfolk, while I play a bunch of 1 toughness guys myself and then cast golgari charm for a huge hit.
2-0
Match 3 vs Wolf Run Bant:
Game 1 was a close call. I was down to 9 (after he attacked) facing down two resto angels (+wolf run and 7 lands total) with my miser deathrite shaman and a bunch of assorted 2 drops but no blood artist. I realize if he topdecks a land he can wolf run for 6 so I can stay alive by gaining 2 twice with deathrite, but there are no creatures in yard. I sac a guy so I can gain 2, going to 11, and play some irrelevant cards, holding onto servitude until there are more guys in yard (and he has less blockers), and holding onto snap+slip. He is a mana short of a lethal swing so he opts to cast two centaur healer and simply swing for 6, going to around 20 and I go down to 5. I swing with my team, which included a bunch of dorks and 2 bloodthrone vampires, and trade off a vampire and some dorks for his healers, putting him down to 14, and still hold up snap slip. He swings in with his restos and I go up to 7 with deathrite, he wolf runs for 3 and I snap slip, going to 4. He then casts a third centaur healer, going up to 17 and tapping out. I untap, servitude, get back a snapcaster and a bunch of other guys (but no blood artist), slip and swing for slightly more than lethal. Game 2 he gets a mediocre draw and loses to the beatdown plan. 
2-0
Match 4 vs American angels and dragons
This is vs an interesting deck with thundermaw, aurelia, resto, and GoST, alongside snap/bolas and a ton of spot removal. Game 1 he gets an aurelia that I dont have an answer to, but loses to beatdown from a bunch of 1 and 2 power guys backed by blood artist. Game 2 he gets an fast draw which I think was GoST into resto into thundermaw, thundermaw. I take an angel+thundermaw hit going from 12 to 4, and pass the turn with a bloodthrone vampire and a very full graveyard (at least 6 creatures including 2 blood artist). He taps out for thundermaw swinging with angel + 2x thundermaw and I cast snapcaster, target slip in grave, sac snapcaster, slip from hand and grave, killing both thundermaw and going to 1. I untap with 6 mana and a servitude, but only 2 black sources and die (servitude would have been very lethal). This is an interesting decision tree for him as well, as he had 5 lands and searing spear and restoration angel in hand. If he had gone for attacking with both and holding up angel/spear, I would have cast snap, let his trigger go on the stack, sack snap in response, cast slip on dragon from hand. This way I would have a choice between flashing back slip or salvage. If he restos his thundermaw, which seems likely because he knows I can snap slip, Ill take salvage and go get a black source to cast servitude, which would almost certainly win me the game in two turns. Game 3 I misplay by being a bit too agressive and he keeps burning my blockers to allow GoST angel through, then restoing GoST. He counters my first servitude with an izzet charm (maybe I should have waited for 7 mana, I cast it on 6). I die the turn I have snap+servitude and ~12 creatures including 2 blood artists in my grave vs a tapped out board because all 4 of my bloodthrone vampire were in the bottom 30 cards of my deck (I had 30 cards in library the turn I died). 
1-2

Overall even the match I lost felt winnable. I am currently testing a 3/1 swamp/forest split, since I almost always get black sources anyways with vigil, and Ive had a couple games ive lost due to only having 2 black sources and being unable to cast servitude. Also aggro decks are falling out of favor to a degree so I cut an abrupt decay for a second golgari charm. Even vs rest in peace we dont need more than 5 enchantment removal. 

I know, I know... I am having a conversation with myself by posting here... but maybe by bumping enough times people will sustain some interest?

I played another tournament, this time a 12 man 4 round swiss cut to top 4, went 3-1, 1-1 in top 4 to get second.

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Round 1: midrange BUG homebrew.  
I win game 1 after he ults garruk for 9 6/6 tokens by topdecking just enough creatures to burn him out with artist
game 2 I keep a 1 lander with a lot of land search on the draw and dont hit a land for 6 turns and die a horrible death
game 3: another close game, with just enough damage from bloodthrone vampire to get there.
2-1
Round 2: Naya midrange:
I dont remember much, except I win it in 2 easily
2-0
Round 3: Naya midrange
game 1: my opponent mulls twice, gets manascrewed, and concedes. Game 2 he races me with thundermaw. Game 3 he has thundermaw and RiP
1-2
Round 4: Yet another naya midrange? I think?
The highlight from this match happens when I go turn 2 lotleth troll and he goes to searing spear it while Im tapped out. I pitch 3 creatures and ride my 5/4 trampling regenerator to a close victory.
2-1
Top 4: Dimir Servitude
I take game 1 with a reasonably aggressive draw. Game 2 I bring in a huge amount of hate and somehow fail to get there. Game 3 I servitude for lethal after it gets countered twice.

I am not really a fan of the blue/black version due to it folding so hard to rest in peace. It does have the option of running some rather interesting cards though (mutilate, drownyard, etc.), and does have cards like negate out of the side, as well as alt wins via jace vs control. It seems like it could beat up on esper control and thragtusk decks, but seems weak vs cards like thundermaw hellkite and decks like blitz.

Finals: Rematch vs Naya Midrange
1-2 A close match that had me losing with servitude in hand because I was at 2 life and couldnt play my third black source untapped. I think I could have played differently to have ended at a higher lifetotal


I've also updated the maindeck and sideboard slightly. I cut the miser deathrite and 1x tracker's instincts for 2x cremate. cremate may seem like a low impact card, but it helps further powerup the snapcasters, and people wont see it coming from the maindeck. More often than not youll just be cycling this card, but thats fine.

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4 Blood Artist
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Bloodthrone Vampire
4 Grisly Salvage
4 Immortal Servitude
4 Strangleroot Geist
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery
3 Breeding Pool
2 Hinterland Harbor
1 Forest
1 Gatecreeper Vine
1 Golgari Guildgate
3 Swamp
1 Watery Grave
1 Dimir Guildgate
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Tragic Slip
4 Lotleth Troll
1 Caravan Vigil
2 Cremate
SB: 4 Abrupt Decay
SB: 2 Duress
SB: 2 Appetite for Brains
SB: 1 Witchbane Orb
SB: 1 Human Frailty
SB: 1 Cremate
SB: 2 Golgari Charm
SB: 1 Pithing Needle
SB: 1 Memory's Journey

 
 
Good results mr.physics! 

I have to say, I kind of gave up on this deck.  Most of my builds were very combo-centric, which appears was an incorrect way to build the deck.   I think if you go too all-in on the combo the deck folds to hate too easily.  My versions also stumbled frequently against the hyper-aggressive decks.  Your build seems like the right mix of aggression and combo.  I do have a few questions for you:

If I remember correctly, you were very high on Burning-Tree Emissary in the deck in the initial builds we were testing.  Did the card underperform or was the commitment to 2 mana tempo plays off of it too large? 

I found Forbidden Alchemy and Jarad's Orders as gy enablers to be quite powerful in this deck.  Forbidden Alchemy did a lot of work for me in particular.  Being able to grab an Immortal Servitude off of it is pretty huge.  Jarad's Orders I mostly played as a 1-2 maindeck because of how terrible it is against aggro.  A lot of times I would just grab 2 blood artists to ensure that I could combo them out.  Again, this may be flawed logic if I'm too focused on assembling the combo, but it did help win me a few games against midrange/control.  Just a couple of cards that may be worth discussing.

Any ideas on how to beat Junk Reanimator?  You'd said you thought that was one of your worst matchups.  Improving that matchups is probably pretty important as its the best deck in the format.

As an aside, I think people are starting to realize that Rest in Peace is actually not very good against Junk which is good news for this deck.  Most people are moving towards playing Clone, Evil Twin, or just decks like Naya Blitz and leaving gy  hate at home.
Off topic since this deck doesn't run red, but:

I thought I'd chime in that my Grixis deck handles Junk Reanimator fairly well due to Rakdos Charm; the problem with other graveyard hate is that it gets removed by Abrupt Decay, but the Charm is instant-speed and they don't generally see it coming.
Good results mr.physics! 

I have to say, I kind of gave up on this deck.  Most of my builds were very combo-centric, which appears was an incorrect way to build the deck.   I think if you go too all-in on the combo the deck folds to hate too easily.  My versions also stumbled frequently against the hyper-aggressive decks.  Your build seems like the right mix of aggression and combo.  I do have a few questions for you:

If I remember correctly, you were very high on Burning-Tree Emissary in the deck in the initial builds we were testing.  Did the card underperform or was the commitment to 2 mana tempo plays off of it too large? 

I found Forbidden Alchemy and Jarad's Orders as gy enablers to be quite powerful in this deck.  Forbidden Alchemy did a lot of work for me in particular.  Being able to grab an Immortal Servitude off of it is pretty huge.  Jarad's Orders I mostly played as a 1-2 maindeck because of how terrible it is against aggro.  A lot of times I would just grab 2 blood artists to ensure that I could combo them out.  Again, this may be flawed logic if I'm too focused on assembling the combo, but it did help win me a few games against midrange/control.  Just a couple of cards that may be worth discussing.

Any ideas on how to beat Junk Reanimator?  You'd said you thought that was one of your worst matchups.  Improving that matchups is probably pretty important as its the best deck in the format.

As an aside, I think people are starting to realize that Rest in Peace is actually not very good against Junk which is good news for this deck.  Most people are moving towards playing Clone, Evil Twin, or just decks like Naya Blitz and leaving gy  hate at home.



@combo-centric versions of the deck: I win nearly half my games the old fashion way (beatdown). I think that is what really separates this list from others. The problem with combo-centric lists is that they are fine vs midrange and control, but tend to fold to hate and blitz aggro, in which case there is no reason to play it over human reanimator. This list feels quite powerful vs human aggro, as post board you have 9x removal spells and 4x snapcaster. Basically, you can afford to fight blitz (and other aggro BTE aggro) fairly by simply playing great anti aggro creatures and a ton of cheap removal. This means you have good game (or at least a very solid fighting chance) against aggro, midrange, and control, and this makes the deck actually worth considering, rather than it just being an amusing curiousity. The deck aggro/combo split also allows much more flexibility and customization out of the side to adapt to a given metagame.


@BTE short answer: it underperformed compared to troll
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I realized I was playing mediocre cards to make BTE good. I really tried to focus on this match having winnable matchups vs everything, rather than a glaring weakness to any particular deck type. Troll is just better in almost all matchups while you are not comboing, and so having him makes the deck more consistent. Troll can also help the combo, although BTE is typically much stronger when you are casting servidtude. Note that caravan vigil gives you a way to turn green mana into black mana, and so if you servitude and have a snapcaster (or two) you can do something like snap a vigil, cast it, then cast a slip. You really only need 1 or 2 BTE to do try this, so it might be worth a shot.


 @orders/alchemy: orders is just to slow I think. Alchemy, I admit to having never tested for reasons I cant explain. As testing has gone on, I have moved further and further away from the self mill cards. Orginally I went into blue for instincts, and now Im down to 0 copies (salvage, on the other hand, has stayed at 4). It could be that 1-2 alchemy is right for the maindeck (along with 1-2 additional blue sources?). Being able to grab a servitude seems very nice vs the midrange decks. I suppose it can also function as pseudo-removal by taking slip. 

@JunkReanimator - Short answer: I havent worked it out completely yet, and could use some help
Longer answer:
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Yes, I do have some ideas ; ). The latest build includes 4x snap and 2x cremate main, alongside 4x salvage (making it more likely youll actually see those cremates in action). Why cremate in the main? Reid Duke took a similar line in his jund list, using ground seal. Basically cantripping grave hate has very little cost. Additionally, we really really like having instant for snap, and simply drawing a card in the matches where cremate isnt the best is perfectly acceptable. The cost is that cards like cremate make the deck even harder to play correctly (as often the correct play will be to ignore value and cash in for the extra card) . I think a combination of cremate + appetite for brains will force them to fight fair. golgari charm puts the hurt on the somberwald sage versions as they have a ton of mana dorks, and can take out seance if they decide to go too deep! If you expect deathrite shaman you can also bring in pithing needle. The challenge is finding the right cards to take out, which is something Im still working on. Basically, their normal game plan beats our normal game plan, but our combo game plan beats their normal game plan, so if we can just slow them down slightly with cremate and appetite (+snap!) then will have time for lethal servitudes. 

@People moving away from rest in peace.... thank god ;) rest in peace plus thundermaw has been annoying to say the least. Honestly turning off morbid hurt nearly as much as losing the graveyard.

 @Hakeem: Graveyard removal actually isnt the greatest vs junk reanimator (it does shine vs humanimator). I agree that having grave hate that dodges abrupt decay is very good, and cremate is often nearly is good as rakdos charm at what it does vs junk, with the upside of drawing a card which is huge. My latest list uses two maindeck copies, which, as you say, no one will see coming.
Since this deck is quite difficult to play, I thought I might write about some specific matchups so people have some idea of how to go about winning with this crazy pile. 

First, the current list, which is constantly evolving, cut some of the lesser used board cards for some of the more high impact options

Now on to the match discussion, which I believe to be somewhere close to 50%. 
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 In game 1, you are typically too slow to combo. This is the sad but true fact. They kill on turn 4, and in the majority of games we have no turn 1 plays. Playing turn 2 elvish visionary on the draw is a good way to get run over. Also, medic counters immortal servitude. Now, there is some chance they might not realize that, but thats hardly something to count on. With medic, you have no way to trade off creatures. We also lack verdict, so we cant punish an overextension. Typically, there are two paths to victory game 1, the all-in troll, and the snap slip.

1)all-in troll: This plan is exactly what it sounds like, you go all-in on the troll. This is much more effective on the play, as are most plans vs blitz. Basically, you play a turn 2 lotleth troll, and when they attack you surprise them by eating their biggest guy. Then you go on the offensive immediately, and just try to race. This plan is reasonably effective vs blitz because they have a tendency to play their creatures pre-combat due to champion and experiment one. People just dont expect you to dump your entire hand on the table, or to have 3-4 creatures in hand. Now, you typically only discard 3 creatures, which is enough to eat a searing spear or kill a typical turn 2 size champion. The rest of your hand can go to playing defense as normal. This strategy works because blitz is typically much worse on defense than offense, and you should have the tempo in your court by eating their guy.

2)you have tragic slip for their one drop and a castable snapcaster mage to back it up. If you can kill their champion great. Typically you save the flashback to take out medic, and then just try and get to 4 mana to play two threats a turn. With troll and strangleroot geist you are pretty good at holding down the fort if you can slow them down slightly with the early removal. 

3)they get beat by their own deck. I know, thats not really a plan, but it happens reasonably often. 

In games 2 and 3 you adopt a completely different plan, siding out 1-3 immortal servitude, 2-4 salvage, alchemy, cremate, and side in 4 decay, 2 frailty,  and possibly 1-2 golgari charm if they are heavy on 1 toughness guys. With all the cheap removal, slip gets even better as you dont need to wait to trade off to get morbid. They may have sided mediocre cards like pacifism and fiend hunter, especially if they got blown out by the all-in troll plan game 1. If you've never snapcastered a human frailty I can promise, its a great feeling. 

 As with any deck facing blitz, the hard part comes from winning a game on the draw. Typically, I lose game 1, win with my postboard plan game 2 on the play, and then postboard on the draw feels like a coinflip.
 
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